Sver / Knut Hamre: Music from Norway
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Knut Hamre
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England’s MOJO magazine has a wonderful feature every month, where different musicians and stars are asked: “What is your favorite Saturday night record?...And your Sunday morning record?” The old dichotomy of the Saturday evening sinner, versus the Sunday morning repentant, is beautifully illustrated through the choices. These two CDs from Norway remind me of these two poles of the human spirit.

First, we begin with the cracking CD from Sver. On Fruen, their second CD, Sver emerge as a quintet. Anders Hall and Olav Luksengard Mjelva provide the fiddle action, with Hall also contributing viola while Mjelva handles the hardanger fiddle (and Mjelva received a Norwegian Grammy for his solo, traditional work). Vidar Berge plays acoustic guitar and mandola; Jens Linell is on percussion and synth duties; and Leif Ingvar Ranoien pumps away on the accordion.

Sver draws on the rural music of the Røros mountain region in central Norway, and this young band attacks the tradition with sheer exuberance. From this studio recording, it is evident that the band knows how to whip dancers into a frenzy, whether playing traditional tunes ("Gorrlaus Ganger"), or an original composition ("Pang!"). Sver are electric without the electricity, and there is an embraceable warmth and humor to their sound that reminds me of Fairport Convention’s instrumental prowess (although the traditions are entirely different). Electric guitarist Knut Reiersrud joins in on the final traditional workout, "Kømmen Fra Kongsvinger/Kongo," but even then the additional power is tastefully handled and minimal in the overall mix. The entire album is just a joy, and amidst all the fire Sver also show that there is plenty of beauty in the Nordic hills in the sparkling, slower pieces. Full marks go to Sver as well for the outstanding artwork on this album, which looks like a woodcut of a Norwegian country barn dance: the illustrations are of young people either dancing madly to Sver, or wandering bleary-eyed and exhausted through the hills, as if they had just drained themselves at a local rave.

Knut Hamre is a legendary hardanger fiddle player. While Ferd (‘Journey’) has a burning intensity to it, it is a solo hardanger fiddle voyage through traditional and new tunes. It is difficult not to be mesmerized by the deep resonance of the fiddle, and how Hamre makes it sing and skirl up into the upper register like the trials of incense smoke. Hamre provides a brilliant, impassioned performance, and the hardanger fiddle has the ability to give one chills due to the resonating drone of the instrument in the hands of a master. No additional band members necessary here! I’ll venture to say that Ferd was recorded in a Norwegian church – the CD features several pictures of Hamre playing in an empty church, in front of several microphones – and the acoustic space surrounding his fiddle makes the recording one that would not be out-of-place amongst the more haunting introspections found on the German ECM label.

After the late-night pulse of Sver, Hamre’s music emerges like the light of dawn, the pure tones enough to cut through any hangover: just another long weekend in Norway. – Lee Blackstone

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cd cover

"Gorrlaus Ganger"

"Springar etter Ola Mosafinn"


CDs available from cdRoots

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